Two appeals in the horrific case of a five-year-old boy who starved to death in his grandparents' home were dismissed Thursday by Ontario's highest court.
Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman of Toronto had asked the Court of Appeal for Ontario to overturn their second-degree murder convictions in the 2002 death of Jeffrey Baldwin.
Ms. Bottineau and Mr. Kidman were convicted in 2006 and sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 22 and 20 years, respectively.
Jeffrey weighed only 21 pounds and was covered in sores when he died in November 2002 from complications due to chronic starvation.
Ms. Bottineau's lawyer conceded in court Wednesday that the facts of the case were "shocking." But James Stribopoulos argued Ms. Bottineau's conviction should be overturned because the trial judge "swept away evidence of Bottineau's highly incapacitated mental state."
Ms. Bottineau's IQ of 69 - borderline mental retardation - prevented her from understanding that malnutrition was likely to kill the boy, Mr. Stribopoulos said.
Justice David Doherty, one of the three judges who heard the appeal, said the trial judge had taken Ms. Bottineau's low intellect into account when sentencing her to life in prison.
"He finds that she's of limited intellect, but she's also a lying, manipulative person," Judge Doherty said Thursday.
The judges also dismissed arguments that Mr. Kidman played no part in Jeffrey's abuse.
"He's there every day, his room is next to the dungeon that these kids were being tortured in," Judge Doherty said Wednesday.
"There's all kinds of evidence that he knocked this kid around."
Mr. Kidman was Ms. Bottineau's longtime common-law partner. The pair were designated as legal guardians for Jeffrey and his sister, who had suffered abuse at the hands of their birth parents.
Ms. Bottineau and Mr. Kidman used the children as a source of income, collecting government support cheques in their names while they confined them to a dark, unheated room that reeked of urine and feces.
Although Jeffrey and his sister lived in squalor, the rest of the house was normal, including the living quarters of other children in the home.
Richard Litkowski, the lawyer for Mr. Kidman, had asked court to quash Mr. Kidman's murder conviction and instead send him to prison for manslaughter.
Mr. Litkowski had argued that Ms. Bottineau was the one who set the rules of the house and fed and disciplined the children, while Mr. Kidman spent most of his days at work and had little direct contact with the kids.
Mr. Kidman's passivity was morally reprehensible, but it did not make him a murderer, Mr. Litkowski told court.
The judges' ruling upheld the Crown's argument that the pair had raised the same issues at trial and there is no reason to interfere with that judge's decision.
Written reasons for the Appeal Court decision will be issued at a later date.
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